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02/01 Direct Link
In "Two Strong Hands and an Allen Wrench," the poet describes the process of assembling the flat-packed bed he built on which he and his lover will lie.

He compares the opacity of the directions to understanding her needs, and points out that although he's done his best in assembling the bed, the most important things, such as the stability of the finished product and the success of his relationship, are out of his hands.

The poem seems to conclude that effort is not enough, and there is an element of luck and faith involved in everything we do.

02/02 Direct Link
In "You and Me and a Pizza Makes Three," the poet compares pizza to love, and describes pizza as a perfect physical representation of the purely abstract aspects of love.

Pizza is pleasing to the senses, it is round and therefore "endless." Pizza is easy to share and endlessly customizable, but also always familiar and comforting. The poet notes he can never get enough pizza.

In the final stanza, the poet's entreaty that his lover will not take the comparison between the depth of his feelings and pizza the wrong way is perhaps an example of "too little, too late."

02/03 Direct Link
The poet may have been trying to draw a parallel to Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 in "It's Gotta Be Said." Both reject the flowery language and idealized portrayals typical of love poems.

What's lacking here is anything corresponding to that Sonnet's touching couplet. The poet rejects any comparison between his lover and an idealized one, and makes no mention of her positive qualities.

(This poetry student wonders whether the lover in question found the pizza poem that preceded this one, precipitating a fight which led to this slightly bitter verse, but knows this conjecture is outside the bounds of formalist criticism.)

02/04 Direct Link
When I got the chance to view an unlisted video called "pizza cats screen test 3," I did not waste any time.

It begins innocently enough, with the introduction of Pizza Cat, who has a pizza head, pizza slices for ears, spaghetti for whiskers, and green olives stuffed with pimentos for eyes.

Pizza Cat is revealed to have a pepper slice / Kuato-like parasite/twin that joins in the song from various points on PC's head.

PC is singing/meowing a song I do not recognize, but which sounds as if it might be a part of the klezmer songbook.

02/05 Direct Link
("pizza cat screen test 3" review, cont'd)

Pizza Cat is flanked by two button mushrooms with cataractous eyes. The camera occasionally zooms in on them as they meow in accompaniment.

At a certain point, a string section made up of anchovies wearing top hats strumming cellos as if they are guitars show up.

There is no room in this review for the fruit cats that appear later.

YouTube user "Sandratail" wins my award for best comment with this one, 5 years old at the time of this writing:
"this scares me so much i cryed the hell out of me."

02/06 Direct Link
At six in the morning I wake up to the sound of a plastic shovel scraping the sidewalk. This is how I know it snowed last night.

The elderly gentleman who runs the small shop next door keeps the cleanest sidewalk in town. He favors plaid flannel shirts. He is kind but not friendly. He likes licorice.

This early-morning snow warning system is extremely reliable, and the quaintness of it takes some of the sting out of the fact that I have to leave for work earlier to walk down slipperier sidewalks owned by people who are still asleep.

02/07 Direct Link
If you tell someone you had spaghetti for dinner they get sort of sad for you, like maybe you don't know how to cook and that's the only thing you know how to make, or maybe they think you're having a hard time paying the bills and that's the only thing you can afford, or maybe your maturation process has been stunted and they need to come over and cook for you, but maybe I just really like to eat spaghetti for dinner, you condescending beast, and I made it because I wanted to and I enjoyed it a lot.

02/08 Direct Link
You are standing in a kitchen. Obvious exits are NORTH and WEST.

> BOIL EGG

You don't have EGG.

> GET EGG

You pick up the EGG.

> INV

You possess: FLASK, BLOWTORCH, EGG

> MAKE BOILED EGG

I don't know how to do that.

> BOIL EGG

How are you going to BOIL EGG?

> BOIL EGG WITH BLOWTORCH

You boil the egg with the blowtorch. You gain 10 XP. EGG removed from inventory. BOILED EGG added to inventory.

> GO NORTH

You failed to turn off the blowtorch and the house immediately burns down. In the darkness you are eaten by a grue. GAME OVER

02/09 Direct Link
"We keep plugging away," said someone in reference to something specific, but I decided to take it in a general way and apply it to everyone I know.

There have been times in our lives when our persistence and determination have been noticed and rewarded by someone, and that person was in a position to give us a cupcake and tell us we had done enough and it was OK to take a rest, and in part, the source of our ability to keep plugging is a misplaced optimism that someone is actually paying attention to what we are doing.

02/10 Direct Link
Quite a few years ago I found that I enjoyed buying small presents for friends. I honestly didn't expect anything in return, it just felt like a nice way of showing people that I cared about them.

Then I realized people didn't like this because they felt obliged, which, right, is not a good feeling. I eventually got that.

I finally stopped giving gifts to people after the time one friend showed up at my apartment to give me a hat. She thrust it at me in a sort of resentful and perfunctory way and left after a short visit.

02/11 Direct Link
The hat was red and orange and yellow and dark green; crazy colors that I would never have chosen for myself.

I immediately developed bad feelings for the hat because it was given to relieve the pressure of the debt my friend felt after I gave her a pen and a nice rock I found and a little ceramic bird. I would have felt fine if she never gave me anything, but she wouldn't have felt fine about that.

It's a really nice hat, though, very warm, and I still wear it often, even though it makes me slightly sad.

02/12 Direct Link
I was chatting with a colleague when we heard the village fire alarm.

She immediately stopped speaking, and I joined her in the pause. We listened closely. She watched my face.

"That alarm means there's a fire or other emergency," she said.

She said this as if she thought I maybe didn't know. I had assumed my expression registered a relief that trained emergency professionals were on the case, combined with the distress of my helplessness re: the emergency, partially due to my ignorance of what or where it was. She may have interpreted it as an expression of indifference.

02/13 Direct Link
You can sometimes feel a tension building up, and you might think "this must be coming from outside myself; there's some external source for this feeling because it's way too big to be contained in my relatively small head/body," and you half expect there to be an explosion or a riot or a plane to crash through the ceiling or some other dramatic manifestation of the feeling you're experiencing. It (usually) doesn't come. That's the good news.

The bad news is that it (usually) really is all in your head, and it's your responsibility to find out what's wrong.

02/14 Direct Link
One way to test whether I'm in love with you is to walk towards me in the hallway. If I pretend I don't see you and I'm fascinated by a piece of dust on the ground, it's a good sign.

I behave this way because the strength and depth of my feelings make me uncomfortable; they're bewildering and overwhelming, and I don't trust myself to behave in accordance with my own values when I'm in their grip. Avoiding you is how I maintain control of myself. I pay for it by eating my own heart out after you've walked by.

02/15 Direct Link
She called me today.

I was very tempted to ignore the call and let her go on thinking whatever good thing she thinks she sees in me is really there rather than let her actually get to know me and realize it was all in her imagination.

It's like that Taxi episode where Louie was dating that blind woman and they were both very happy, but he didn't want her to get an operation on her eyes because he didn't want her to be able to see him. It's just like that, only in this situation nobody is actually happy.

02/16 Direct Link
My landlord gave me his old refrigerator when he bought a new one.

The new refrigerator is nicer than the old one in every way except one: the shelves on the door are labeled in permanent marker. These are the labels: JAM, CONDIMENTS, MISC JARS, and MISC BOTTLES.

No sane person labels refrigerator shelves this way, but a married couple in which one member cares deeply about refrigerator items being in the "correct" place might.

This refrigerator has heard some ridiculous arguments, along the lines of "You put a jar on the bottle shelf!!!" and I'm glad it can't talk.

02/17 Direct Link
A few months ago I took a communication class at work, the goal of which was to get me away from my desk for an hour.

The instructor asked us to provide an example of an everyday communication that had gone wrong over a period of time.

One woman volunteered the example of her husband habitually and thoughtlessly putting the coffee in the cabinet incorrectly. Her voice cracked, her body tensed, and her fists tightened as she described his depravity.

The instructor, who had been teaching this class for five years, was taken aback by her emotion on this issue.

02/18 Direct Link
One of the consequences of schools cutting library programs is that many young students never set foot in a library and are never taught to see the library as a sort of sacred and silent space.

(Admittedly, there are other and worse consequences, like reduced access to books and computers and the world of knowledge and culture and wonderment they provide, etc...)

When these students do enter a library, they obliviously chatter away using their "outdoor voice," not even aware that within the "indoor voice" category there is another, even quieter "library voice" which is quieter even than a whisper.

02/19 Direct Link
The first time I remember ever paying attention and being fascinated in math class was when we learned about asymptotes.

An asymptote, if you've forgotten, is a curve that continues to approach a line into infinity, but it never actually reaches it. You can extend the asymptote out a mile, ten miles, ten billion miles, and although it will always get closer to its line, it will never touch.

You can always look at the gap between them and zoom in, and you'll see how vast the gap actually is.

I still regularly find metaphors for asymptotes in everyday situations.

02/20 Direct Link
What made me think about asymptotes the other day was a very nice definition of shyness. I've lost it, but it was something like "an uneasy acknowledgement of the vast distance between any two human minds."

I've never found the definition that involves a fear of negative evaluation satisfying, because there's so much more to it than that.

We can never truly know each other, even if it is what we want more than anything. Attempts at gaining that knowledge can be painful and fruitless, and I don't know that some diffidence and caution born from those experiences is unreasonable.

02/21 Direct Link
How it goes at work (I)

My boss's boss's boss wants a baked potato. She is busy, so she delegates this task to my boss's boss, which is only fair.

She hands an uncooked potato to my boss's boss and tells her she wants it baked. She says she wants chives and black pepper.

It's now my boss's boss's job to get this potato baked, but she is also busy.

My boss's boss, genuinely thinking she's being helpful, douses the potato in gasoline, sets it on fire, and launches it at me, over my boss' head, from a potato cannon.

02/22 Direct Link
How it goes at work (II)

My role in this project begins when I am hit in the head with a flaming projectile that turns out to be a potato.

I can see my boss's boss celebrating a direct hit, and she is gesticulating wildly and screaming that I need to get to work. She says it's urgent and keeps repeating the word "CHIVES."

I have no idea what is going on. I ask my boss. She has no idea either. I ask my boss's boss why she fired a potato at me, and she says it's urgent and CHIVES.

02/23 Direct Link
As a consequence of some work activities this week, I had an opportunity to experience actual human rage.

This is a rare experience for me. Normally it takes quite a lot, but my boss's boss managed to push my buttons in the correct order with an unprecedented display of shockingly poor communication skills combined with her characteristic penchant for drama.

Rage is not recommended. I could feel my chest tighten and my arteries harden and I'm sure that if it lasted for a few more hours I would be in the hospital. Some people are not cut out for rage.

02/24 Direct Link
Someone I know from work has an actual farm and I went to visit. She has chickens.

I don't know what I was expecting... no, that's not true. I know exactly what I was expecting.

I was expecting to sit down and big fluffy white chickens would flock around and fly up to sit in my lap to receive petting and cooing and head scratches. I expected I would find a spot where the wing attaches to the body, analogous to the human shoulder blade, where the chickens would appreciate gentle circular rubbing.

None of my expectations came to pass.

02/25 Direct Link
If you ever take a photo of something cool, you can put it online and get a lot of internet points. I did this recently, and for a short time enjoyed the warmth of strangers' approval.

As the internet points began to come in more slowly, I noticed myself becoming anxious. Was I still accepted? I didn't want the attention to end.

It was a learning moment. I now have more sympathy and understanding for the people who take their shirts off and do selfies in the mirror, although you can rest assured I am not so attention-hungry yet.

02/26 Direct Link
Ian was telling me that his life is uneventful lately. He wakes up, goes to work, comes home, etc...

I am experiencing something similar, and so is pretty much everyone else I know.

So what is the key to a good life, I asked him. Ian has studied more philosophy than I have. He said he is no longer sure. He thinks it involves other people somehow, and making their lives better.

Do we do that? Yes, sort of, a bit? So are we living good lives? Will we be filled with regret later? We could not answer this question.

02/27 Direct Link
Continuing my conversation with Ian, I confessed to a profoundly painful empty feeling that life is absurd and at its most basic just extremely sad.

That dull and meaningless ache is normal, he said. People who have children are too busy chasing them around to notice it, so he theorizes it is felt most keenly by the childless.

I told him one of my co-workers was talking about setting me up so I can get married and have kids. He asked what I felt in response, and I told him "dread," and he said yes, that is normal, too.

02/28 Direct Link
Catholics know today as Shrove Tuesday, and people in commonwealth countries know it as Pancake Day. I am not Catholic or British, but what I am is hungry for pancakes, so I chose to participate by making crepe-like pancakes, topping them with lemon and sugar, rolling them up, and enjoying them very much.

I also once had a vegan haggis with turnips and mashed potatoes on Burns Night despite not being Scottish. If your culture or religion has a tradition involving food, I will be there at the front of the line ready to participate, ignoring your dirty looks.